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Bratton to Press for Terrorist Data

Chief will take part in Homeland Security meeting focusing on sharing information.

July 01, 2006|Richard Winton and Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton said Friday that he and other big-city police chiefs will meet this month with top Homeland Security officials amid complaints that the federal agency isn't doing enough to share information with local law enforcement nationwide.

The meeting was planned after big-city police chiefs expressed frustration with what they considered a lack of communication by the federal security agency about possible terror-related intelligence.

Bratton said some chiefs raised concerns about a year ago because there have been "issues from time to time." He did not cite specifics.

This year, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa publicly complained that federal officials didn't give him an in-depth briefing before President Bush detailed a terrorist threat on the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles.

"This is a critical issue for us," the chief said. "The good news is: We've seen some significant improvements in intelligence provided over the last year."

Federal officials have long hailed what they have described as the seamless relationship between the Department of Homeland Security and local police.

But, in addition to a lack of sharing, some chiefs have said they were concerned about the quality of the federal intelligence.

Bratton said is it is not so much "they don't share intelligence as they don't have intelligence."

Washington, D.C., Police Chief Charles Ramsey requested the meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to address issues of sharing information, said Officer Kenneth Bryson, a Metropolitan Police Department spokesman.

"The chief just wants to make sure information flows accurately," Bryson said.

The meeting was first reported in the Wall Street Journal.

"It's going to be an opportunity for the secretary to sit down with the chiefs of police for major cities and talk about information sharing," said Russ Knocke, Homeland Security Department spokesman.

Chertoff, he said, wants to "listen to the concerns of the police chiefs and personally work to address the concerns."

Knocke said that last year, the federal agency provided more than 1,200 bulletins, notices and other dispatches to local law enforcement agencies.

He said the department was reviewing ways to improve the sharing of information and the quality of analysis in the shared information.

"We are the first to say there is more work to be done," Knocke said. "Information sharing is one of the most important priorities."

Bratton said changes have already been made to bolster communication between federal and local agencies.

Bratton said the 14 chiefs of the nation's largest cities have cellular phones that allow conference calls with one another and federal anti-terrorism experts at a moment's notice.

In addition, he said, more of the money to protect the nation's vital assets is being directed to Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles-Long Beach area recently received $80.6 million for antiterrorism efforts -- a 14% increase over last year.

Some of that money will go toward what Bratton sees as part of the longer-term solution to disseminating counterterrorism information.

Bratton said a Joint Regional Intelligence Center is scheduled to open in Norwalk in the next month. It will be staffed by intelligence analysts from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Sheriff's Department and other agencies.

"The fusion center will become a national model. The best intelligence will be analyzed and shared from across Southern California," he said.

Bratton said he hoped that with better communication, local and federal officials could develop better information about possible terrorist risks.

The chief said any differences between local and federal officials can be ironed out.

"In Los Angeles and California, the LAPD has some of the best relationships in the country with the FBI and Homeland Security," he said.

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